AEC was now in the position of Application Service Provider. The success of the project generated additional requests from their retailer partners. Managers of both large and small operations found the system useful. Larger clients were able to receive data they could not get from their own Information Technology departments. Small operations for the first time had visibility on their activity in useful reports.
Vinod Badami discussed the need for a project champion in his article on designing a successful business support strategy. The project champion “provides the political support for the project” (2003). The champion was the retailer, which is what AEC wanted to hear.
AEC had made the decision to start simple on the deployment and now they were receiving requests for many new reports. Instead of just madly creating reports, AEC entered phase II of the project. The Data Warehouse and CDF teams looked for a theme of the requests so they could create a true Business Intelligence system. The first phase helped the managers running the storefront. Now, a new audience was looking to gain access to this great information system.
The new requests centered on information for managing the financial functions of an Internet store. Reports for managing profit and loss on product and shipping were needed. Information on sales tax collections by tax state was necessary so companies could report and pay the appropriate government entities.
Companies were looking to move away from the traditional EDI files they had been receiving, but not always using. It was almost amusing that companies would ask AEC for reports when they already had the data available. But many companies did not have the resources to process all of the information and often relied on the summary billing and other information they received from AEC.
The Extranet Business Intelligence Reporting System, at least for small and medium size companies, was eliminating the EDI status and invoice files that had been generated for years. This is consistent with the 1998 prediction by Andrew Sadler-Smith, UK managing director of Novell. In an article by Linda Leung, he stated “Extranets will be popular because they will enable firms to link with more organizations, instead of just those that can afford EDI” (1998). Instead of receiving raw data for manipulation, companies now received useful information for making decisions. Reports, such as the one in figure 4, now provide real value.
Upgrade and Implementation Plan
Phase II of the project is centering around financial based reports. AEC is working to ensure that all of the information is fully auditable and that it can eventually replace the “official” billing of traditional EDI. The goal is satisfy another sector of the client’s team fully endearing them to AEC for a long term partnership. The new sector is the financial team at the client retailer.
The various reports AEC is developing will show details on profit and loss, show reports on product categories and even merchandise not owned by AEC. AEC is also structuring the systems so charges not previously associated with orders, such as monthly maintenance fees, can be incorporated into the reports and aggregated across the orders.
Business Objects recently released a new version of the WebIntelligence product. The new version has many standard “new version” things such as improved performance, improved security and easier usage. However, it also provides some extraordinary enhancements, too.
Users will soon have the ability to “drill down” as they analyze the reports. In the past a report was run to show sales on a daily basis, and a second report was run to examine the details of a specific day. The users will be able to run a weekly summary report and “drill down” directly into the details of a particular day, and then drill into information about products or consumers from that day. This is a major step in enhancing the “Business Intelligence” of the system.